Lions Secondary Emerges As Spot To Watch

As the Detroit Lions progress towards more mini-camps and training camp, the defensive backfield will draw the most attention -- especially from the coaching staff. Much more inside, including comments from head coach Jim Schwartz, team notes, etc.

Louis Delmas has one secondary spot locked up for the 2010 season. And although veteran newcomer Chris Houston is pushing strong for a starting cornerback slot, nothing else in Detroit's secondary is a given.

As the team progresses towards more mini-camps and training camp, the defensive backfield will draw the most attention -- especially from the coaching staff.

"The one area that we probably still have more work to do is the secondary," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "It is wide open in a lot of areas. ... We've got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football in the NFL, and they're all at that stage where they need to grab hold of a starting position and hold onto it and not just be a part-time player or a bit player."

Delmas, a second-round pick last year, bounces around like he did as a rookie. But the rest of the group is filled with fresh faces and question marks.

The Lions have six safeties competing for the spot alongside Delmas. They just signed C.C. Brown to go along with Marquand Manuel, Jonathan Hefney, Marvin White, Daniel Bullocks and Ko Simpson. Bullocks has missed two of the past three seasons with a knee injury. Simpson is still sidelined by a knee injury.

Eight players are in the mix at cornerback, highlighted by four off-season acquisitions: Houston (trade with Falcons), Amari Spievey (third-round pick), Jonathan Wade (free agent) and Dante Wesley (free agent). Eric King (shoulder) and Jack Williams (knee) are returning from injuries.

"I like where we are from a competition standpoint," Schwartz said. "What'll happen is, the further we go, there's going to be some guys that are going to need to separate themselves from that pack."

At safety, Manuel and Hefney have played alongside Delmas in the two organized team activities open to the media. Hefney is intriguing, listed at 5-feet-9, having played in the CFL.

"He's got really, really good quickness," Schwartz said. "A lot of times, in our secondary, we're looking for, like, four corners across the back end, guys that have corner-type ability. He has that. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's done a really good job of picking up what we do and covering ground, and I think his quickness and his range is one of the things that the coaches have liked about him."

At corner, Houston has perhaps the best hold on a starting job.

"He's a corner that doesn't have a lot of fear," Schwartz said. "He'll get up and press, and he's been that way going back to college. He was a press corner in college, didn't play very much zone. He's comfortable up there, does a really good job with his hands and his feet at the line of scrimmage.

"He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's got good range and you need to have a little bit of that fearlessness in you to be a corner, to be able to challenge and not just play soft all the time, and he doesn't. He gets up and challenges receivers."

Wade fits that description, too, and has made a good impression on the coaches to this point.

"Jonathan's done a nice job in coverage and relishing those one-on-ones," Schwartz said. "He's done a good job there. We're really working on a lot of different techniques in the secondary, and that's one that he's excelled at so far."

Team Notebook:

  • With the addition of end Kyle Vanden Bosch and tackles Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh, the Lions feel they pose a threat to NFC North foes Jay Cutler, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. "We've got a bunch of pieces to the puzzle; we've just got to put all the pieces together," said Williams, echoing a comment Suh made the night he was drafted. "We're going to surprise a lot of people. I'm going leave it at that. We're going to surprise a lot of people."
  • DT Corey Williams is adjusting back from the 3-4 scheme he played in Cleveland to the 4-3 he once played in Green Bay -- the one he prefers because it allows him to attack the quarterback. He said he feels "way ahead" of where he thought he would be at this point and already is developing chemistry with Kyle Vanden Bosch. "We work out every morning together," Williams said. "We're getting to know each other a lot better. He's a great guy. I think once we just keep coming together, we're going to be a force."
  • Landon Cohen, a seventh-round pick in 2008, is going to have to fight for a roster spot because of the new additions at defensive tackle. But he concedes nothing. "I love it," Cohen said. "I love competition, man. I always say I never lost a fight in my life. I'm excited about the competition, and I think it's going to bring the best out of all of us." Listed at 300 pounds, he said he had lost weight but added muscle so "we can be more penetrating, like John Randle, Warren Sapp-type guys, the guys that get up the field and make those plays in the backfield."
  • Tight end Tony Scheffler wore a boot on his right leg and didn't participate in an organized team activity, but he said it was "just a precautionary deal" and "nothing bad."

    "He's got an irritated foot," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We just put him in the boot for a little while. He'll probably be back soon. Nothing big. Just a little bit of irritation." With tight end Brandon Pettigrew recovering from a torn left ACL, wearing a brace on the knee as he goes through only individual drills, the Lions signed another tight end: John Madsen. The 6-foot-5, 240-pounder played for the Raiders from 2006 into '08. He went to the Browns at the end of '08 but didn't play a game, then spent the off-season with them. He ended up in the UFL. "He's a guy that's probably a little bit better pass receiver than he is blocker right now, but that's OK, because we're using our tight ends in a lot of different roles," Schwartz said. "He came in, worked out for us earlier this week, did a nice job with it. We're down a little bit numbers-wise with tight ends, with Scheff not practicing and with Pettigrew only doing some individual stuff, so we wanted to get a look at another guy."

  • The Lions feel more like a team than they did a year ago. "When a new coach is coming in, they're looking to replace everybody," right guard Stephen Peterman said. "So everybody was sitting there competing with each other. It was kind of a screw-your-teammate attitude, because everybody was looking out for themselves. But now, you know, the team is building. You can see the guys that are still around, obviously they want them here, and the guys that they brought in are here to help us out. It's everybody kind of working together."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "His head went from being down, looking at something, to looking up and saying, 'Really?' It's sort like a dog when you say, 'Hey, where's the squirrel?'" -- Lions coach Jim Schwartz, on recruiting free agent Kyle Vanden Bosch by telling him defensive tackle Corey Williams was coming via trade.

Infirmary Report: Tight end Tony Scheffler has a boot on his right leg because of what coach Jim Schwartz called an "irritated foot," but the injury was described as short-term. ... Right tackle Gosder Cherilus had clean-up knee surgery in mid-April to remove debris from his right knee. He should return before the mandatory minicamp June 23-25. ... Tight end Brandon Pettigrew, running back Kevin Smith and cornerback Jack Williams are going through individual drills after suffering torn ACLs the second half of last season. The Lions hope all three will be ready for the season opener. ... Cornerback Eric King is participating fully after recovering from a shoulder injury. ... Right guard Stephen Peterman is back from an ankle injury. ... Safety Daniel Bullocks is practicing after missing two of the last three seasons because of a knee problem. ... Safety Ko Simpson is still sidelined by a knee problem.

Lions Report Top Stories